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I encourage you to be prayerful, thoughtful, and respectful in how you approach your reading, discussing, and writing, and to do your very best work on the assignments. This course covers some sensitive and challenging issues. The Lord has a high ideal for us in marriage and family life—but we live in a fallen world and none of us fully lives up to these ideals. Thus, they deserve our best study, reflection, and discussion.

Course Learning Outcomes

As you successfully complete this course, you will increase your understanding and testimony of the true doctrine of the eternal family and the role of families in leading us to happiness on earth and in eternal life with Heavenly Father. You will be more inspired and able to explain, promote, and defend the doctrine of the family, the place of the family in Heavenly Father’s plan, and how the family is the “fundamental unit of society” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129). You will be more prepared to evaluate questions and sources of information in the light of scriptural and prophetic teachings. Specific objectives include the following:

Major Doctrinal Emphasis

  1. Increase your understanding of the doctrine of marriage and the family and its central role in Heavenly Father’s plan for the eternal progression of His children.
  2. Increase your understanding of our divine nature and destiny as sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents.
  3. Deepen your appreciation of the role of prophets to teach the doctrine of the family and administer covenants and ordinances, including the blessings of the temple.
  4. Increase your sense of responsibility to strengthen your families through living the gospel of Jesus Christ and promoting the family in society.

Additional Objectives

  1. Increase your understanding of the Lord’s “divine design” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” paragraph 7) for marriage and parenting relationships (e.g., the nature of love, eternal covenants, equal partnership, the divine stewardships of husbands and wives, and chastity).
  2. Increase your understanding of Church teachings related to specific aspects of marriage and family life, including prophetic counsel on personal readiness for marriage, stages of dating, courtship, spouse selection, communication, forgiveness, healthy sexuality, provident living, divorce, and other aspects of the marital stewardship.
  3. Increase your awareness of the factors that social science research has shown to contribute to the formation and maintenance of healthy and stable marriages and families.
  4. Sensitize you to modern threats to marriage.
  5. Enhance your spiritual awareness and academic skills in order to weigh scholarly and contemporary ideas about family relationships and use both faith and scholarship to “hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life. (BYU Mission Statement)

In order to achieve its mission, Brigham Young University has established “four educational goals” for its students and faculty (taken from “Aims of a BYU Education,” http://aims.byu.edu/aims). The objectives of this course have been developed in accordance with these four goals.

Educational Goal:All students at BYU should be taught the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Course Objective: Given the fundamental importance of marriage and families in the gospel of Jesus Christ, this course is designed to help you understand marriage and family relationships within the context of the revealed word of God as well as within the context of social science research on couple formation and marriage development. You are expected to be involved in the on-going process of correlating revealed truth with the best learning of men and women—“by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).

Educational Goal: “Students at BYU should receive . . . an education which will help students think clearly, communicate effectively, understand important ideas in their own cultural tradition as well as that of others, and establish clear standards of intellectual integrity.

Course Objective: In this course, you will be exposed to some fundamental ideas and dilemmas that thinkers have grappled with for generations. You will do so within the context of social science scholarship relating to family relationships. Further, you will be exposed to methods of discovering, organizing, and constructing knowledge within the social sciences. Class discussions, as well as exams and writing assignments, will give you the opportunity to more fully develop critical thinking and communication skills—particularly related to cultural debates about the meaning of marriage and the promotion of the eternal family in society.

Educational Goal: “Students should also receive instruction in the special fields of their choice.”

Course Objective: This course provides a religious instruction for students from all majors and disciplines who are seeking to increase their personal readiness for marriage and family life. The emphasis of this course is on the doctrinal foundations and personal skills needed to be prepared for the “vocations” of marriage and parenting.

Educational Goal: Scholarly research and creative endeavor. This course will allow you to review or produce research in a way consistent with accepted scholarly methods.

Course Objective: This course enables you to more fully examine current conceptual perspectives and research findings on marriage and family relationships. You will be more prepared to evaluate questions and sources of information in the light of scriptural and prophetic teachings as well as scientific foundations of truth.

This university is committed to search for truth and teach the truth. All truth is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether truth comes from a scientific laboratory or by revelation from the Lord, it is all compatible. . . . Conflict only arises from an incomplete knowledge of either science or religion or both. (Russell M. Nelson, Life Science Building dedication)

Course Materials

You will need these materials to complete the course:

Required Readings

Recommended Resources

These readings are optional and will not be included in exams but do provide valuable information.

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This course will be not only an exciting and enjoyable process but also a demanding and challenging endeavor. I expect you to work hard and do excellent work. Where much is expected, much should be given in support, so I will do my best to facilitate your learning and strive to support you in your work. If you have any questions or concerns about this course, do not hesitate to contact me through the course.


There will be a quiz for each unit. The quiz questions help you make sure you are comprehending the readings. The quizzes are open book, but to really prepare for the exams, you should try to answer the questions without looking up the answers in the readings. Note: Some of the questions on the quizzes will appear in the midcourse and final exams.


You will write two 7–8-page papers for this course.

Full instructions and details for each of the papers are in the corresponding lessons.

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You will complete two exams for this course. The exams are closed-book and closed-notes, but there is no time limit.

The midcourse exam covers material from the first part of the course, lessons 1–14.

The final exam is cumulative, with approximately 70% of the questions coming from lessons 15–26 and the remaining 30% from lessons 1–14.

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Here are the assignments and exams that count toward your course grade:

Assignment/Exam Points
“By Study and By Faith” Research Brief 50
Family-Life Mentor Interview Paper 50
Unit Quizzes 100
Midcourse Exam 200
Final Exam 200
Total 600

Grade Scale

Your letter grade is based on these percentages.

A 94–100
A– 90–93
B+ 87–89
B 84–86
B– 80–83
C+ 77–79
C 74–76
C– 70–73
D+ 67–69
D 64–66
D– 60–63
E 0–59

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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


Two papers, six unit quizzes. No assignment resubmissions are allowed.


The computer-graded midcourse and final exams are proctored. You must pass the final exam to earn credit for the course.

Course Duration

You have one year to complete this course. You may purchase one three-month extension if you need more than a year to complete the course

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. 

Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.

Inappropriate Use of Course Content

All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.

Copyright © 2016 Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

Published by the
Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
120 MORC
Provo, Utah 84602-1514